Caffeine during pregnancy

Experts advise women to limit caffeine during pregnancy to less than 200 milligrams a day, which is about one cup of coffee. It's a good idea to cut back as much as you can, though, because even smaller amounts could affect your baby.

woman in the kitchen preparing a coffee
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Can pregnant women drink coffee?

The short answer is yes, pregnant women can drink coffee. However, it's important to watch your consumption of coffee, and caffeine overall, during pregnancy. Caffeine can affect your pregnancy and your baby in ways that aren't completely clear.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises pregnant women to limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams per day, which could be as little as one 8-ounce cup of coffee, depending on the brand. See the chart below to get an idea of how much caffeine is in different foods and drinks.

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How much caffeine is safe during pregnancy?

Although the official recommendation is 200 mg or less a day, some experts believe that even moderate amounts of caffeine during pregnancy can introduce risks.

Previously, studies have linked high caffeine consumption (more than 200 mg a day) to babies being small for their gestational age or at risk for intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). But researchers at the National Institutes of Health recently found that women who drank less than 200 mg of caffeine a day during pregnancy – as little as half a cup of coffee per day – had slightly smaller babies than non-caffeine drinkers.

Researchers noted that caffeine is believed to cause blood vessels in the uterus and placenta to constrict, which could reduce the blood supply to the fetus and inhibit growth. They also said that caffeine could potentially disrupt fetal stress hormones, putting infants at risk for rapid weight gain after birth and for obesity, heart disease and diabetes later in life.

However, other studies have found no link between moderate caffeine consumption in pregnancy (less than 200 mg a day) and problems such as low birth weight, IUGR, miscarriage, or premature birth. That's why moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy gets the okay from most ob-gyns and midwives.

Still, because the research isn't settled, it's a good idea to limit your caffeine consumption as much as possible during pregnancy, and to stay within the recommended 200-mg-a-day limit.

Effects of caffeine during pregnancy

When you drink a cup of coffee, caffeine crosses the placenta into the amniotic fluid and your baby's bloodstream. While your body goes to work metabolizing and getting rid of the caffeine, your baby's body is still developing and takes a much longer time to process the caffeine. As a result, your baby is exposed to the effects of caffeine for much longer than you are.

Even if caffeine doesn't usually cause problems for you, you may find that it doesn't agree with you during pregnancy. It's a stimulant, so it can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. Plus, it can make you feel jittery and cause insomnia. Caffeine can exacerbate pregnancy issues like heartburn and frequent urination, too.

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The effects of caffeine may be more noticeable as your pregnancy progresses. That's because your body's ability to break down caffeine slows, so you end up with a higher level of it in your bloodstream. During the second trimester, it takes almost twice as long to clear caffeine from your body as when you're not pregnant. During the third trimester, it takes nearly three times as long. This can also mean that more caffeine crosses the placenta and reaches your baby, who can't process it efficiently.

There's one more reason to cut back on coffee and tea, whether it's caffeinated or not. These beverages contain compounds that make it harder for your body to absorb iron. This is important because many pregnant women are already low on iron. If you have coffee or tea, drink it between meals so it'll have less of an effect on your iron absorption.

Wondering when you can get back to enjoying your regular caffeine habit? It depends. Some caffeine can cross to your baby in breast milk, which is why it's also a good idea to limit caffeine if you're breastfeeding, especially for the first few months.


Which foods and beverages contain caffeine?

Caffeine is in a lot more things than just coffee, and the amount of caffeine varies widely among products, and even among brands. Pay attention to the kinds of foods and drinks you're having throughout the day (and how much of them) so you can be aware of how much caffeine you're really consuming.

To manage your caffeine intake, you'll need to be aware of all sources, like tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate, and coffee ice cream. Caffeine also shows up in herbal products and over-the-counter medications, including some headache, cold, and allergy remedies. Read labels carefully.

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The amount of caffeine in a serving of coffee varies widely, depending on the type of bean, how it's roasted, how it's brewed – and, obviously, on the size of the cup. (Although espresso contains more caffeine per ounce, it's served in a tiny cup. So a full cup of brewed coffee will actually deliver more caffeine.)

Amount of caffeine in common foods and beverages

coffee, generic8 oz95-200 mg
coffee, McDonalds16 oz145 mg
coffee, Peets16 oz260 mg
coffee, Starbucks16 oz260-360 mg
coffee, Dunkin'14 oz210 mg
caffe Americano, Starbucks16 oz225 mg
coffee, Dunkin' cold brew14 oz260 mg
coffee, Starbucks iced16 oz165 mg
caffe latte, Starbucks16 oz150 mg
espresso, Starbucks1.5 oz (1 shot)150 mg
flat white, Starbucks12 oz130 mg
espresso, generic1 oz (1 shot)64 mg
Nespresso capsules160 mg
coffee, generic instant8 oz75 mg
coffee, Starbucks decaffeinated16 oz25 mg
coffee, generic decaffeinated8 oz2-15 mg
chai latte, Starbucks16 oz95 mg
black tea, brewed1 bag55-95 mg
green tea, brewed1 bag45-95 mg
black tea, decaffeinated1 bag<5 mg
Tazo Iced Black Tea14 oz31-45 mg
Honest T Organic Just Black T17 oz86 mg
Snapple Lemon Tea16 oz37 mg
Lipton Lemon Iced Tea17 oz21 mg
Soft drinksAmountCaffeine
Pepsi Zero Sugar12 oz69 mg
Mountain Dew12 oz54 mg
Diet Coke12 oz46 mg
Dr. Pepper12 oz.41 mg
Pepsi12 oz38 mg
Diet Pepsi12 oz36 mg
Coca-Cola Classic12 oz34 mg
Cherry Coke12 oz.34 mg
Barq's Root Beer12 oz22 mg
7-Up12 oz0 mg
Sierra Mist12 oz0 mg
Sprite12 oz0 mg
Energy drinksAmountCaffeine
Red Bull8.5 oz80 mg
Mountain Dew Amp Original16 oz142 mg
5-Hour Energy Regular1.9 oz200 mg
Monster Energy16 oz160 mg
Rockstar Energy Original16 oz160 mg
Starbucks Doubleshot Energy15 oz135 mg
Vitaminwater Energy Tropical Citrus20 oz50 mg
Hershey's Special Dark chocolate1 bar20 mg
Hershey's milk chocolate1 bar9 mg
Ben & Jerry's coffee ice cream2/3 cup65 mg
Dreyer's or Edy's coffee ice cream2/3 cup14 mg
hot cocoa mix8 oz1-3 mg
chocolate milk8 oz5-8 mg

Ways to cut back on caffeine during pregnancy

While there are good reasons to cut back on caffeine during pregnancy, it's not always easy. Your desire for a morning cup of joe might evaporate during the first trimester when morning sickness strikes, only to return full-strength later in pregnancy. Or, you may always have a hankering for your usual caffeinated pick-me-ups. Consider some of these tips to help you have a low-caffeine pregnancy:

  • Ease off gradually - If you're a devoted coffee lover, tea aficionado, or cola fan, caffeine withdrawal probably won't be easy. To lessen symptoms – which can include headaches, irritability, and lethargy – ease off gradually (but get under that 200-mg daily limit as soon as you can).
  • Try mixtures for less caffeine - You may want to start by mixing decaf with your regular coffee, gradually increasing the ratio of decaffeinated to caffeinated. Or use more milk and less coffee. At home, try using a smaller amount of ground coffee (or tea leaves), or brewing for a shorter time. Letting a tea bag steep for just one minute instead of five reduces the caffeine by as much as half.
  • Switch to decaf - Consider making the switch, at least for your second cup of coffee or tea. (Decaffeinated beverages may contain some caffeine, but it's usually a small amount.)
  • Seek other sources of energy - Do your best to get plenty of sleep at night, go to bed early, and take rests throughout the day when you can. Eat well and exercise – even mild exercise can give you an energy boost.

Although herbal teas often have no caffeine, check with your healthcare provider before drinking them. A cup of peppermint or ginger tea is fine, but some herbal teas aren't safe for pregnancy.


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BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.

ACOG. 2020. Committee Opinion. Moderate Caffeine Consumption During Pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. a new window [Accessed May 2021]

Center for Science in the Public Interest. 2021. Caffeine Chart. a new window [Accessed May 2021]

Hoyt, AT et al. 2013. Maternal caffeine consumption and small for gestational age births: Results from a population-based case-control study. Maternal and Child Health Journal 2014 Aug;18(6):1540-51. a new window [Accessed May 2021]

James, JE. 2020. Maternal caffeine consumption and pregnancy outcomes: a narrative review with implications for advice to mothers and mothers-to-be. BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine. a new window [Accessed May 2021]

March of Dimes. 2020. Caffeine in Pregnancy. a new window [Accessed May 2021]

NIH. 2021. News Release. Moderate daily caffeine intake during pregnancy may lead to smaller birth size. National Institutes of Health. a new window [Accessed May 2021]

Nisenblat V, Norman RJ. 2015, reviewed 2021. The effects of caffeine on reproductive outcomes in women. UptoDate - a new window [Accessed May 2021]

Kandis Lake
Kandis Lake is a registered nurse, health writer, and mom of three kids. She lives in Utah and loves reading and adventuring with her family.